CLEVELAND COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – The latest battle between the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA) and residents against the OTA’s most recent expansion plan has come to a close in a Cleveland County courtroom Thursday.
The $5 billion, 15-year-long Access Oklahoma Plan would put a new turnpike along Indian Hills Road and connect Newcastle to Norman. Part of the plan is to also extend the Kickapoo Turnpike west of Lake Thunderbird, essentially connecting the Kickapoo Turnpike to Purcell.
However, over 200 property owners against the OTA’s plan filed a lawsuit in May claiming the agency violated the state’s Open Meeting Act. It alleges the OTA failed to inform the public about the intended routes of the meeting agendas in January and February of this year.
The lawsuit added that the OTA “played games with the agendas.”
The suit was argued Nov. 21 in front of Cleveland County District Court Judge Timothy Olsen.
Now, Judge Olsen has ruled in favor of those 200 plaintiffs.
Following the judge’s ruling, the OTA sent the following statement:
The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has always endeavored to conduct its statutory mission to construct, operate, repair and maintain turnpike projects in an open and transparent manner. We respect the Court’s decision and will go about bringing new items of business, to correct what the Court found to be deficient, for the Authority Board’s consideration.
The OTA first announced the $5 Billion long-range turnpike expansion and improvement plan at the December 7, 2021 Board Meeting, and thereafter made OTA representatives available to the media in order to publicize the announcement as much as possible. The announcement was made at an early stage of development so that the public would have meaningful information about the OTA’s long-range plans and the timing of future projects.
Tassie Hirschfeld, a lead plaintiff, says she believes todays development invalidates all current contracts for the project.
That remains to be seen as another lawsuit against the project stands in the Oklahoma Supreme Court.